Innosuisse Annual Magazine 2020

Transporting medicines and vaccinations safely and sustainably

To ensure that certain medicines and vaccines do not lose their effect, they must be stored and transported at a constant temperature. Worldwide transportation by air is one of the fastest and safest means of transport, but it also presents some challenges: it must be possible to maintain the constant internal temperature of the containers even at extremely high or low external temperatures. “If the cold chain is interrupted, the pharmaceutical products usually can no longer be used. Even the slightest temperature deviation can damage the medicines and, in the worst case, render them unusable,” says Christian Ardüser, in charge of research and development at SkyCell.

SkyCell’s hybrid containers are tested in an in-house measurement laboratory using a climate chamber.
“Innosuisse helps us develop our air cargo containers more efficiently, more cost-effectively and in a more environmentally friendly way, to safely transport temperature-sensitive and life-saving medicines and vaccines. This is critical not only in times of Covid-19.”

Christian Ardüser

Head of Research and Development at SkyCell AG

The Swiss company – founded in 2012 as a start-up and now employing over 120 individuals – develops, produces and rents out air freight containers worldwide in which the temperature remains constant for more than eight days on average. SkyCell’s hybrid refrigerated containers ensure a failure rate of less than 0.1 percent for deliveries. Cooling is provided by an innovative storage material without electrical or mechanical components. The hybrid containers can be easily recharged in a refrigerated chamber or a refrigerated truck.

Together with the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, SkyCell is developing a more efficient and sustainable insulation of the containers – with less weight. “A single container weighs 480 kilograms. Every kilo that is eliminated not only reduces transport costs, but also the CO2 emissions of cargo flights,” says Mr Ardüser. Innosuisse supports this innovation project. “The Innosuisse mentor who helped write the application was very helpful and gave valuable tips.”

The principle of energy storage

The temperature regulation of the containers works according to the principle of energy storage. Energy is stored by building crystal structures – the aim being to find crystal structures that store as much energy as possible at a given temperature. An innovative material is used as a storage medium, which can change its aggregate state within a certain temperature range, for example from liquid to solid and vice versa. The special feature of the storage medium is that it does not initially change its own temperature when energy is supplied in the form of heat, but undergoes a phase transformation. During the change of aggregate state, the heat that has been absorbed or released is stored and can subsequently be used – even after quite a long period of time.

Support by Innosuisse

  • Innovation Project
  • Innovation cheque
  • Mentoring